See All Your Scoring Options
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Watching golf on TV golf the past couple of weeks, I always find it amazing to watch the pros selection of shots around the greens. Most amateurs I play with don't use nearly as much imagination in their scoring shots, and their scores suffer because of it.
Too many recreational golfers seem to have their "go to" club for recovery shots when they miss the green. For many, it's the sand or lob wedge, while others might always go to their pitching wedge or even 8- or 9-irons because they are "afraid" of their wedges. But I suggest that your scores will benefit if you let your imagination run a little wild and open your mind to all the shot options available to you.
For example, if you are not far off the fringe and have some green to work with, a highly-probably shot is what I call the "putt-chip". Very simply, you just take a middle iron – a hybrid also works well for this shot — play the ball back a little in your stance, and use your normal putting grip and stroke. Solid contact is all but assured, and your touch will be similar to that with your putter. The ball gets airborne just enough to carry to the green surface, but has minimal spin so it then rolls out to the hole. Tips for executing the "putt-chip" are to grip the club lightly, as it is an overall lighter club than your putter, and to slightly forward press so that you make clean contact. Try this shot and I think you will find it becoming another of your "go to" shots around the greens.
I often find that the gap or pitching wedge is a better option for a straightforward pitch than either the sand or lob wedges. Situations that scream out for that selection and shot is when you have quite a bit of green to cover after the ball flight, or if you are chipping uphill and want the ball to release some after it lands. To get the lower ball flight and reduced spin you are seeking on this shot, simple play the ball slightly to the rear of your stance, and make your takeaway lower, slower and longer than normal, and your forward swing the same way – low, slow and long. That produces less clubhead speed and reduced spin, along with a lower ball flight. Keep your hands quiet and take the club away with a one-piece rotation of your body core, with an extended arm swing. Don't set the wrists as much as you would for a bunker shot or normal pitch.
And I'll give you a third shot that can be your only hope sometimes.
You find yourself short-sided, with a closely mown upslope to a near-cut pin position. A lob shot is low percentage, so trying to run it up the slope is your only hope of getting it close enough to have a chance at par, but you don't want to get "cute" with a wedge and leave yourself this shot again.
The answer here is to "putt-chip" it with a fairway wood or hybrid. Just take your putting stance and grip on the club, which will tilt the longer club up on its toe a bit – that's OK. Grip it lightly as these clubs are considerably lighter than your putter and that improves feel. Then just "putt" the ball up the hill and onto the green. And on this shot, make sure the ball gets to the hole. When you have a tough recovery shot, your goal should be to give yourself a chance for an up and down, but make sure you don't leave yourself the tough chip all over again by being timid or cute.
So, I hope these three shots can find their way into your scoring arsenal. They only take a little practice and you'll be able to call them up when you need them. When you are out for an afternoon "quick nine" drop some balls around the greens and practice these a bit – they'll pay off quickly.
When you miss a green, exercise a little creativity and see all your options. Quite often the best shot isn't the one that's the most obvious.
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